It is difficult to tell that we are beyond summer solstice here. The sky is gray and there is a good chance of rain. It is par for the course in June in Oregon but my heart still pines for rays of sunshine and warmth on my skin. If I cannot have the climate I hope for I will have to settle for a cake full of tropical sunshine and flavor. This Orange Cake with Passion Fruit Buttercream is not the kind of cake that you bite into and wonder what flavor one could possibly be trying to convey. It is fully and intensely orange and bright and perfumed. I need something sunny and in its full splendor!
This rich, buttery, aromatic cake has a fine tender crumb facilitated by a 2:1 ratio of cake flour to all-purpose flour. The reason I have shifted in the direction of the more starchy flour is that I wanted to add more flavorful liquids to the batter without compromising the crumb of the cake. Starchy cake flour often needs more liquid to keep it from seeming cottony-fluffy and dry, but in this case it is the perfect sponge to absorb the added orange juice.I have doubled up on orange intensity by including both orange zest and orange oil. The zest adds a touch more vibrancy than oil alone and also preens with gorgeous flecks of color throughout this golden cake. The zest and oil are added to the butter which is a perfect carrier for the oil-bound flavors. Blending them early with the butter allows them to permeate the fat and tint it a rich yellow-gold hue. If you would like a more subtle flavor you can cut the zest and oil by as much as half.This is an all butter cake which means the texture is very fine. The flavor is also a perfect counter to the warmth of the orange. This cake uses 3 sticks of butter as opposed to the standard 2 sticks. This excess of butter helps to add milk fat absent from the usual whole milk (replaced with flavorful yogurt and orange juice) and also adds a lightness and moistness that is synchronous in this cake.
The plain yogurt in this recipe adds another dimension of flavor and a tenderness brought about by the subtle acidity. It is also a bit thicker than conventional buttermilk and keeps the batter to a pleasing consistency even with the addition of orange juice. Yogurt is a lovely substitution for buttermilk if you cannot find it in your region. If needed you can dilute it with a small amount of milk or water.Lastly, the Passion Fruit Buttercream pairs amazingly well with the Orange Cake (sort of like Hawaii’s POG with out the guava G). Together they unite in fruity tropical harmony. In the buttercream I used Passion Fruit Paste sent from Ayi at Pastry Portal. Two little teaspoons of this liquid gold flavored the whole batch of buttercream with incredible, natural, fresh flavor. I do not know how these fruit pastes are made but they somehow harness all of the fresh flavor and bright color into a concentrate that smells and tastes just like you are taking a bite out of the fruit. I keep making guests to my home smell them and every time they are amazed at the quality. If you can, check them out! If you cannot access the paste you could add passion fruit puree, or nectar or a frozen passion fruit juice concentrate to your buttercream.
Whether you are looking out to blue skies or gray I hope this recipe brings a little ray of sunshine to your kitchen!
- 12 ounces (340 grams) unsalted butter, softened- 1 ½ cups/3 sticks
- 15 ounces (425 grams) granulated sugar- 2 cups
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoons (23 milliliters) finely grated orange zest lightly packed
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) orange oil or orange extract
- 8 ounces (227 grams) cake flour*- 2 cups
- 4 ounces (113 grams) all-purpose/plain flour- scant 1 cup
- ½ teaspoon (5 milliliters) baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons (8 milliliters) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (5 milliliters) salt
- 9 ounces (255 grams) plain low-fat yogurt- 1 cup
- 6 tablespoons (90 milliliters) orange juice
- 8 ounces (227 grams) egg whites separated from whole eggs or from a carton- 1 cup
- 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar- 2 ¼ cups
- ½ ounce (14 grams) corn syrup- 1 tablespoon
- 16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm- 2 cups
- 1 tablespoons (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) passion fruit paste
- 4 tablespoons (60 milliliters) orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
- Beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes of mixer. Add orange zest, oil and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds to infuse the butter with the flavors. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined.
- Sprinkle in dry ingredients to distribute. Turn mixer on low and mix to moisten dry ingredients. Add half of yogurt and orange juice and beat on low until incorporated then and beat on medium-high for one minute until well combined and smooth. Add remaining yogurt and orange juice and beat on medium-high for about 30 seconds until smooth and well mixed.
- Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cake is well done. Do not under bake or this rich cake will be over-moist and unstable. The cake should begin to settle back on itself on the edges (about 2-3 minutes beyond when a toothpick comes out clean). Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely if using immediately, or wrap in two layers of plastic wrap if using later. This recipe makes three layers about 1 ¼ inches high each. Frost the cooled cake with Passion Fruit Buttercream or your buttercream of choice. Enjoy!
- Whisk egg whites, sugar and corn syrup together in a microwave-safe bowl; make sure the mixture is well mixed so the sugar can protect the eggs from cooking. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 2-4 minutes on high in 30 second intervals whisking well after each 30 second heating. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160ᵒ F/72ᵒ C. (Alternatively this step can be carried out in a double boiler over simmering water). Pour the syrup into a cake pan or shallow metal bowl and chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until it is quite cool (45-60ᵒ F).
- Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer for 2 minutes on high until the butter is lighter in color and aerated. Add the cooled syrup in two additions to the butter beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla, passion fruit paste and orange juice and beat 30 seconds until smooth; can be used immediately.
- You can store this buttercream at room temperature for 2 days, in the refrigerator tightly sealed for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.